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WSU Men's Basketball

‘A change of scenery can do wonders’: Klay Thompson embraces new chapter in Dallas

Golden State forward Klay Thompson is guarded by Dallas guard Luka Doncic during the second half at Chase Center on April 2 in San Francisco.  (Tribune News Service)
By Stephen Hunt The Spokesman-Review

DALLAS – The numbers are staggering: 952 games, over 25,000 minutes, four NBA championships, five trips to the NBA All-Star Game.

Klay Thompson’s 13 seasons with the Golden State Warriors were successful to put it mildly. However, Thompson, 34, has now turned the page on his time in the Bay Area after recently signing a three-year deal with the Dallas Mavericks, the 2024 NBA runners-up, and the affable Washington State product can’t be happier.

“Well, whether you play basketball, work in the corporate world or in whatever industry, sometimes change can spur greatness. A change of scenery can do wonders,” Thompson said during Tuesday’s media conference in Dallas to introduce him and the Mavs’ two other off-season acquisitions in Quentin Grimes, who came over in a trade with Detroit, and Taj Marshall, an undrafted rookie free agent signee.

“I’m very grateful for my time at Golden State, but I just felt like this is re-energizing me to do something special for the rest of my career. Dallas attracted me because of the young players they have, the style of play, the world-class treatment these players get from this organization. It’s a beautiful city and they love their hoops.”

During his time with the Warriors, Thompson averaged 18.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 2.4 assists in 38 career games against Dallas. However, after Golden State was bounced out of the 2024 NBA playoffs by Sacramento in a play-in game, it led the ex-WSU standout to wonder if his time as a Warrior was finished as he was a pending free agent. As he watched the Mavericks’ run through the Western Conference before losing in the Finals to Boston, he had a simple observation about who would become his new team.

“When I was watching the playoffs and watching the Mavs make a run for the championship, I just saw myself fitting in well with this team and the personnel,” he said. “They look like they’re having fun playing with each other and play for each other. That was very attractive for me. There’s mutual interest there and that’s why I’m here.”

Thompson’s arrival is expected to lighten the offensive load off Dallas’ talented duo of Luka Doncic, the Slovenian sensation already considered one of the league’s top players at 25, and Kyrie Irving, a great cerebral player and scorer who helped Cleveland to its first NBA title in 2016.

However, for Michael Finley, a former NBA star who is now the Mavericks vice president of basketball operations, adding Thompson to the roster was about more than just what this savvy veteran shooter can bring in terms of X’s and O’s.

“We talked about this at dinner, it wasn’t about the basketball,” Finley said.” I’ve talked to him more about the experience and the veteran leadership that he can bring to the team. He can bring that experience, that knowledge for the young players as well as Luka (Doncic) and Ky (Irving). Experience is key. I think he brings that to the team.”

Thompson, who was a Cougar from 2008 through 2011 and left Pullman with impressive career averages of 17.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game over 98 career games, had a rough final season in Golden State. During the regular season, he averaged 29.7 minutes per game and shot 38.7 percent from long range, among the lowest of his career. In the spring, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr moved him to the bench, a role he accepted like a true professional.

But maybe the final testimonial to just how tough last season was for Klay was how it ended – with an ultra-tough 118-94 loss at Sacramento in the Western Conference play-in game on April 16 a game in which Thompson finished with zero points on 0-for-10 shooting, including 0-for-6 from long range in just over 31 minutes.

During Tuesday’s introductory media day, Thompson said that performance in his final game as a Warrior still “stings,” but he chooses to look at what lies ahead in Dallas instead of pondering what could have been.

“Yeah, it’s surreal (to be with a different team now), but I’m embracing it. The organization has shown me so much love and the fans are very grateful,” Thompson said. “There’s just a great vibe around the city, especially coming off a championship appearance. Everybody wants to get over that hump.

“Having this opportunity, playing 13 years not many guys have the chance to win a championship or championships. I think we’re set up for a great run. Expectations are high, but I welcome that. That’s what you want as an athlete. You want that pressure and have expectations from your fan base to see that we want to win it. I’m not into breaking more shooting records, I just want to win at this point. I’m excited to play winning basketball. That’s really all that matters.”

At one point during the media conference, Thompson even gave a nod to WSU, complimenting one media member sporting a Cougs sweatshirt on his great choice of apparel.

The veteran shooter said that when he started looking at the many pros of coming to Dallas, the decision to sign with the Mavs was a no-brainer.

Not only was he joining a serious contender, but the chance to play alongside Doncic, a player he has immense respect for, and Irving, a friend, and to be coached by NBA Hall of Famer Jason Kidd, one of the greatest point guards in league history, was simply too good to pass up.

“Kyrie and I are good friends. We came into the league together in 2011 and we played on Team USA together twice,” Thompson said. “Obviously, we played against each other on the highest stages for many years. I’ve always been a fan of Ky’s game. Guarding him is hell, so it’s nice to be on the other end of that for once. Seeing other defenders get shook by him, that’s going to be a good sight to see.

“There’s that mutual respect there (between Doncic and Thompson). I remember seeing him at the end of the West finals in ’22 and told him how much I love his game, how he elevates his teammates and how much respect I have for his ability. I think that resonated well with him. He was real gracious in defeat. I just appreciate someone who is not afraid of the moment and competes to the end. Luka fits that bill. I think we will bring the best out of each other.”

And after spending much of his life in California, Thompson is equally excited about the move to Texas and said he plans to get his fill of the famous barbecue in the Lone Star State, but not too much because his diet remains “serious.”

He’s also looking forward to attending Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers games in person, the latter because his younger brother, Trayce, played with several current Rangers in the minors and the Dodgers. Oh, and he also wants to take his Boston Whaler boat out to some of the area’s best lakes.

“I’m just excited to get out and embrace my new city,” he said.

As far as on the court goes, he feels he still has plenty of his trademark competitive fire left and that he can consistently contribute to an already-talented Mavericks squad. “I look forward to being rejuvenated here. Have a lot of basketball left in the tank,” he said.

Stephen Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco, Texas.